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When like the stars the singing angels shot
To earth, and heaven awaked all his eyes
To see another sun at midnight rise
A child He was, and had not learned to speak,
That with his word the world before did make;
That with one hand the vaults of heaven could shake.
See how small room my infant Lord doth take,
And yet but newly He was infanted,
And yet already He was sought to die;
Not able yet to go, and forced to fly;
But scarcely fled away, when, by and by,
Egypt his nurse became, where Nilus springs,
Who straight to entertain the rising sun,
But now for drought the fields were all undone,
And now with waters all is overrun:
The angels carolled loud their song of peace;
The cursed oracles were stricken dumb;
To see their King the kingly sophics come;
A star comes dancing up the orient,
Young John, glad child, before he could be born,
Leaped in the womb, his joy to prophecy; Old Anna, though with age all spent and worn,
Proclaims her Saviour to posterity;
And Simeon fast his dying notes doth ply.
With that the mighty thunder dropt away
From God's unwary arm, now milder grown, And melted into tears; as if to pray
For pardon and for pity, it had known
That should have been for sacred vengeance thrown; There, too, the armies angelic devowed Their former rage, and all to Mercy bowed; Their broken weapons at her feet they gladly strowed.
Bring, bring, ye Graces, all your silver flaskets,
Painted with every choicest flower that grows,
To strow the fields with odours where He goes;
Let whatsoe'er He treads on be a rose. So down she lets her eyelids fall to shine Upon the rivers of bright Palestine, Whose woods drop honey, and her rivers skip with wine.
Twice had Diana bent her golden bow
And shot from heaven her silver shaft, to rouse The sluggish savages that den below,
And all the day in lazy covert drowse,
Since Him the silent wilderness did house: The heaven, his roof and arbour, harbour was; The ground his bed, and his moist pillow grass ; But fruit there none did grow, nor rivers none did pass.
At length an aged sire far off He saw
Come slowly footing; every step he guessed One of his feet he from the grave did draw;
Three legs he had—the wooden was the best;
And all the way he went, he ever blest
A good old hermit he might seem to be,
That for devotion had the world forsaken, And now was travelling some saint to see,
Since to his beads he had himself betaken,
Where all his former sins he might awaken, And them might wash away with dropping brine, And alms, and fasts, and church discipline; And dead, might rest his bones under the holy shrine.
But when he nearer came he bowed low,
With prone obeisance and with courtesy kind, That at his feet his head he seemed to throw;
What needs him now another saint to find?
Affections are the sails, and faith the wind,
Soon the old palmer his devotions sung,
Like pleasing anthems modelled in time; For well that aged sire could tip his tongue
With golden foil of eloquence, and lime,
And lick his rugged speech with phrases prime. “Ah me!" quoth he, “how many years have been Since these old eyes the sun of heaven have seen! Certes the Son of heaven they now behold, I ween.
"Ah! might my humble cell so blessed be
As Heaven to welcome in its lowly roof,
Lo, how my cottage worships thee aloof,
That underground hath hid his head in proof It doth adore Thee with the ceiling low, Here honey, milk, and chesnuts wild do grow, The boughs a bed of leaves upon thee shall bestow.
“ But, oh!” he said, and therewith sighed full deep,
“The heavens, alas! too envious are grown, Because our fields thy presence from them keep;
For stones do grow where corn was lately sown;
(So stooping down he gathered up a stone,) But thou with com canst make this stone to ear: What need we then the angry heavens to fear? Let them us envy still, so we enjoy Thee here."
Thus on they wandered; but those holy weeds
A monstrous serpent and no man did cover;
And round about that stinking corpse did hover
The dismal prince of gloomy night, and over His all-abhorred head the shadows erred Of thousand peccant ghosts, unseen, unheard; And all the tyrant fears, and all the tyrant feared.
He was the son of blackest Acheron,
Where many frozen souls do chattering lie,
And ruled the burning waves of Phlegethon,
Where many more in flaming sulphur fry,
At once compelled to live, and forced to die; Where nothing can be heard for the loud cry Of “Oh!” and “Oh!” and “Out, alas! that I Or once again might live, or once at length might die.”
Ere long they came near to a baleful bower,
Much like the mouth of that infernal cave
Dark, doleful, dreary, like a greedy grave,
That still for carrion carcases doth crave; The ground no herbs but venomous did bear, Nor ragged trees did leave; but every where Dead bones and skulls were cast, and bodies hanged were.
Upon the roof the bird of sorrow sat,
Elonging joyful day with her sad note; And through the shady air the fluttering bat
Did wave her leather sails and blindly float,
While with her wings the fatal screech owl smote The unblessed house: there, on a craggy stone, Celæno 16 hung, and made his direful moan; And all about the murdered ghosts did shriek and groan.
Like cloudy moonshine in some shadowy grove,
Such was the light in which Despair did dwell; But he himself with night for darkness strove;
His black uncombed locks dishevelled fell
About his face, through which, as brands of hell Sunk in his skull, his staring eyes did glow, That made him deadly look; their glimpse did show Like cockatrice's eyes, that sparks of poison throw.
His clothes were ragged clouts, with thorns pinned fast;
And as he musing lay to stony fright,
16 One of the harpies.